Process over product

Parents often give kids plenty of encouragement to strive.

Set high goals.
Work hard.
You can do it.
Believe in yourself.
Dream big dreams.

But it’s important that kids don’t get unintentionally punished for doing just that.

The more challenges students take on, the more likely they are to come up short. If your student takes that harder math class and brings home a low grade, or tries out for the varsity team and gets cut, or applies for that part-time job and doesn’t get hired, it’s important not to be unduly focused on the end result. Instead, use it as an opportunity to talk about the process.

Ask what he did to prepare for the test. Ask how she thought the tryouts went. Ask if he would do anything differently in his next interview.

This is different than just cheerleading at any cost. Yes, if you noticed how hard your student worked in pursuit of the goal, if you were proud of her effort, by all means, say so. But praise works best when it’s sincere. And if you can discuss the process—not the product—without judgment, you’ll be demonstrating through actions that you care more about how your student pursues a goal than whether or not he or she achieves it every time.

Some parents might worry that this approach will just encourage underachieving. But kids who develop the skills to go after what they want, to be resilient in the face of failure, and to use the results to teach them how to refine the process—that’s a surefire recipe for success. They’ll set higher goals, and achieve them more often, by focusing on the process over the product.